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I'm developing a forum/community board and I want to avoid registration forms. So I decided to make user registration almost implicit.

What I mean is, if an unregistered user is about to do something that requires an account (e.g. creating a thread, responding to one, sending a PM to someone else, etc.), just add an email field and a CAPTCHA in whatever the form is.

Then, when the form with the email field and the CAPTCHA is submitted, along with the main information of the form (the thread text, response text, message content, respectively), the user's account is automatically created. The section My account become available, etc. And the an email is sent to the email they provided along with a randomized password (their current password).

But I have a few questions about this approach:

  • What if the user makes a mistake when writing his/her email?
  • Is it okay to add a time limit for validating the account (like 24 hours or so)? And should the account be deleted completely if this time limit is exceeded?

And most importantly, how can I make it clear for users that this is only for registration, and if they already have an account they should just sign in?

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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think you should support both the quick and easy way just adding the email and CAPTCHA, and a regular registration where user gets a validation email with the familiar link to validate the account. In this way the user of your site can make a choice, which is a good thing. Before the email-address is validated - I think you should let a moderator review the post before it's added. By doing so you would probably get less spam on your site.

What if the user makes a mistake when writing his/her email?

Wait to publish the post until the email has been validated, and be very clear which steps that follow a registration for a comment.

Is it okay to add a time limit for validating the account (like 24 hours or so)? And should the account be deleted completely if this time limit is exceeded?

If you do, tell the user what will happen if the email isn't validated. 24 hrs might be a bit to short time period - I would go for 14 days, with the posibility to register the same email address again after this time period.

And most importantly, how can I make it clear for users that this is only for registration, and if they already have an account they should just sign in?

Again give the user a choice to (1) sign in or (2) register. If the user enters an already validated account email adress upon registration - tell the user to sign in since the email address is already taken. Also the option to use "I forgot my password" should be given.

If you have the time, try to add sign in using Facebook login, Google login, OpenID, Twitter or some other accounts as well - and the hassle to register would be completely gone.

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Instead of that, give option to user to login using Facebook or Gmail. There we no need worry about invalid email.

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You miss the point completely. The OP is trying to avoid the obvious sign-up procedure completely. A 3rd-party sign-up is still a sign-up. –  dnbrv Feb 27 '12 at 22:12
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What if the user makes a mistake when writing his/her email?

Mistakes will be made. But will the small number of mistakes that you can expect weigh against the increased ease of use?

Is it okay to add a time limit for validating the account (like 24 hours or so)?

Sure. But if you make it one month or so, your costs will still be close to zero, but the user won't perceive it as a limitation and you won't need to offer explanations.

Leomancini:

If the user enters an already validated account email adress upon registration - tell the user to sign in since the email address is already taken Why? If it is a registered address, just sign the user in. Simple as that. Everything else only adds to the confusion.

Bear in mind that it makes no sense to make things easier if you have to offer explanations on how you made it easier.

One thing about using email as login: It is my experience that people tend to forget that their email address was used for login and they start looking for a nonexistent loginname. So, on login you have to make clear people need to fill in an email address, not a username.

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What if the user makes a mistake when writing his/her email?

When the form is submitted, display a message like "We sent an email to abc@example.com with a temporary password. [Change email address] [Resend message]"

Is it okay to add a time limit for validating the account (like 24 hours or so)? And should the account be deleted completely if this time limit is exceeded?

Personally, I wouldn't add a time limit for validation. You don't know if they might not have access to their email, etc.

In general, it does seem a little sneaky... Just make sure to be super clear about what's happening. Make sure they know that they are creating an account and this will be their login email.

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